The trade deadline has come and gone, and the extended waiver trade system is no more. A handful of contenders were scrutinized for being too nonchalant and timid (i.e. New York Yankees) at a time that demands aggression. The time to add players to a contending team is in the past…or so one would think.
Free agency is still an option for all teams (with respects to the Aug. 31 postseason roster deadline).
While July 31 marked the end of the exchange of players, a long list of available free agents await in the shadows. These misfit toys have all but been forgotten as the season has played on despite a plethora of notable names without teams. Many have remained unsigned for a variety of reasons, including contract demands, declining performance and age, among others.
Nevertheless, injury concerns and late-season slumps could force teams to dip into the free agency pool one last time before it’s too late.
The reasons for these free agents remaining unsigned are all legitimate, meaning many of these players likely come with baggage and aren’t likely to be season-changers to any respective team. However, if Cody Ross and Steve Pearce taught us anything, it is often the smallest of moves that make the largest of differences.
For that reason, we’ll list 10 available free agents who could aid a contending team down the final stretch run.
Away we go.
1. Eduardo Nunez – Utility
The once-speedy utility man fell out of the rotation in Bean Town early on this season. Once Rafael Devers began to take flight and Nunez continued to deal with hamstring issues, the Red Sox simply had no use for him. With that being said, “Nuni” is just three years removed from an All-Star season and two years removed from propelling the Sox to an AL East title where he belted out eight homers and 27 RBI in just 38 games. He can play just about every position on the infield and plug into a corner outfield spot.
2. Evan Gattis – DH
In a baseball age dominated by the long ball while sacrificing batting average, how is Evan Gattis still out of a job? Remove his lone injury-bugged year in 2017 and “El Oso Blanco” has tallied 21-plus home runs each of the first five seasons of his career. The Astros tried inserting Tyler White into Gattis’ role, but the results were so disappointing they traded him to Los Angeles for a change of scenery. Who wouldn’t want a right-handed power bat off the bench?
3. Bartolo Colon – RHP
We have a “Big Sexy” sighting. The now 46-year-old Colon has already been documenting his training regimen on Instagram, so he’s obviously in shape (depending on your definition). His last two campaigns have been a strain on the neck to say the least after surrendering 321 runs in just 432 1/3 IP. Nevertheless, Colon averaged 90 MPH on his fastball last season, can still rev it up to 92, and has always been a strike-thrower. A pitcher who can eat up innings and give the bullpen a day off can be influential for a contending team lacking bullpen depth.
Teams who should consider: Brewers, Nationals
4. Joe Panik – 2B
Just recently DFA’d after an illustrious career in San Francisco, the Gold Glove second baseman has seen his hitting numbers decline in almost every category the past two seasons; however Panik is still a good glove in the field, posting positive dWAR outputs in back-to-back seasons. Infield depth is always helpful, especially for a team like the Mets who have both Robinson Cano and Jed Lowrie on the shelf.
5. Brad Brach – RHP
Despite a wretched debut season in Chicago this year, Brach has been one of the better relievers in the league since his debut with San Diego in 2011. With his cross-body step and three-quarters release, Brach is a right-hand matchup nightmare. Though it’s hard to ignore the obvious balloon of an ERA (6.13) and WHIP (1.77), right-handed hitters have combined for just a .216 batting average against Brach this season. The funky right-hander can be useful when given the right role and responsibilities.
Teams who should consider: Nationals, Rays, Red Sox, Dodgers
6. Mark Reynolds – 1B
Released a couple weeks ago by a slumping Colorado Rockies squad, Mark Reynolds was having a disastrous season amid a team clogged with first basemen. Mustering just four long balls in 78 games, Reynolds did little to help his cause for playing time after striking out at an alarming 42 percent rate. All that considered, a power-hitting bat off the bench can be helpful to a National League team needing a pinch hitter once a game or an American League team in need of a right-handed platoon hitter.
Teams who should consider: Astros, Red Sox, Nationals
7. Denard Span – OF
Perhaps the biggest issue for Denard Span is that his biggest assets, defense and base running, have both declined. Span was once one of the top leadoff hitters in the game before a major core muscle surgery forced him to restrategize his approach. Fourth outfielders are always extremely valuable, and Span enjoyed himself a surprisingly good season last year at the plate for a Seattle team that was in a battle for a wild card spot much of the second half.
Teams who should consider: Phillies, Indians, Athletics
8. Darren Ford – OF
Right about now, you might be asking: “Who is Darren Ford?” That is the beauty of this dark horse free agent. Ford, who is currently playing for the Atlantic Independent Baseball League, was a key component to the San Francisco Giants taking the division over the Padres and eventually going on to win the World Series back in 2010. Ford is all about speed. He can’t hit a lick, but the guy can flat out scoot. Ford has stolen 30 or more stolen bases 11 times in his professional career, including 23 this season. Any team would be wise to grab the speedy baserunner simply to put the pressure on opposing relief pitchers (*cough Dave Roberts in 2004 *cough *cough). The Yankees already took a similar strategy by signing Terrance Gore in July.
Teams who should consider: Athletics, Astros, Cubs, Dodgers
9. James Shields – RHP
“Big Game James” has, reportedly, been eager to find a spot back on a big league team. Shields enjoyed, perhaps, his best season in more than three years with Chicago in 2018 after posting a 4.53 ERA and 1.4 WAR in 204 2/3 innings of work. Shields doesn’t have the mid-90s fastball he once had in Tampa Bay, but he still has four-to-five offspeed pitches that are all swing-and-miss offerings. A return to the AL East to a Yankees team in dire need of starting pitching would certainly be interesting.
Teams who should consider: Yankees, Brewers, Phillies
10. Danny Valencia
Other than the minor scrum between Valencia and Billy Butler in the Oakland clubhouse back in 2016, all Valencia has done since he was called up to the majors is hit. A career .268 hitter, the corner-infielder/outfielder posted league-average numbers for a last place Orioles team last season. His swing is reminiscent of Red Sox postseason hero, Steve Pearce, and he’s another one of those veteran right-handed bats who can jump into any lineup and be an instant threat. Health has been his biggest obstacle across his 9-year career, but Valencia has had all season to rest up. Should a team take a swing on him, he will be ready to rake.
Teams who should consider: Red Sox, Rays, Giants, Brewers